I'm having a rather annoying problem! I have RGB images made in Photoshop that I need to convert to CMYK.

When I save the file my black background is converted to a light grey! I tried deleting my background and adding a pure black background in my PSD file but even that comes out grey! There is no way to save black? The colors all look fine in Photoshop, it's just when I save them as TIFF/JPEG.

How can I prevent this?

  • Are you printing these images? And also! if you were to eyedropper tool the now grayish CMYK color in the converted image, what are the values that show up in the CMYK color window? Aug 8, 2013 at 14:50
  • 2
    Sounds a lot like this question: Saving a document in photoshop CMYK turns SOME black into gray - key bit: "The washed-out greys you're seeing are the software trying to simulate the range of possible blacks on a screen." Aug 8, 2013 at 15:45
  • A festival who is using my work in their printed catalogue asked me to provide high quality 300dpi CMYK stills. So it will get printed by them
    – Maryam
    Aug 8, 2013 at 16:15
  • The other thing is when I change values in photoshop everything is perfectly black, it's only when I save it as a Tiff or Jpeg that the exported still is grey!
    – Maryam
    Aug 8, 2013 at 16:16
  • I did try the solution the other person gave in that question but it didn't work! the problem is I don't see any problem while I'm in photoshop! it's the way it gets exported! it's when it's saved.
    – Maryam
    Aug 8, 2013 at 16:22

5 Answers 5


As with any printed media, you'll really have to see the print to check if your colors match the design, and unless you're an expert with print, there's a good chance you'll want to run a copy, revise a couple of colors, and print again.

CMYK can really only get so close to matching what you'd see on paper vs what you'd see on screen since there're so many printers, inks, and different substrates out there.

100% key rarely results in black, rather it comes out in dark grey. That is, depending on the substrate, but it's safe to assume most materials will result in dark grey. Sometimes even having an ugly yellow/greenish hue* to it.

You'll want to look into printing true black. True black, refering to actual black, or as close as you can get to it, is accomplished in CMYK by adding some additional color (lets think of colors more in terms of inks)... ..additional inks to your black. So instead of 100% key, 0% Cyan, 0% Magenta, and 0% Yellow, you might have 100%k - 20% cyan - 31% magenta. It's a tricky process you'll have to fiddle with some. The article I linked to explains it in more detail with some graphics that should clear this up for you.

The light grey is really just photoshop trying to tell you that's what it's going to look like with the current CMYK colors after being printed.

*In the case of printing on newsprint, such as Newspaper ads or inserts they will nearly always request 100% K. The rich black will bleed on that paper, and be difficult to align. The output of using rich black is often out of balance and blurry.


Make sure of the following:

  • Image > Mode > CMYK Color is checked.
  • View > Proof Setup > Working CMYK is checked.
  • View > Proof Colors is checked.


Make sure you use a Rich Black; a mix of the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow and 100% Black. It creates a very dark black.

If you only use a black at 100% in the CMYK values, it may look a bit gray.

Don't use the hex color #000000 or RGB Red-Green-Blue values for you printed projects and colors; that's not a black for printing.

Refer to this question for more details about rich black!


This started happening a couple of Photoshop versions ago. I struggled with it, as I send proofs to clients as either jpgs or pdfs and both started showing up as a duller version of the original. Doesn't appear to affect printing, just screen versions.

But problem solved... I now save images as pngs as the black remains true black and colours remain as saturated as my original artwork.


I had the same trouble, and after trial and error I found the solution: Simply uncheck 'embed color profile' while "saving as"

  • 1
    Please can you add a screenshot? And which version do you use?
    – Mensch
    Jun 4, 2016 at 12:42
  • 1
    Oh gosh.. Doing this will certainly fix none of your problems and give you hundreds of new ones.
    – joojaa
    Jun 5, 2016 at 19:58

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